Part of a series that starts here.
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Last time I wrote about my post-baby resolutions, I said that I'd identified some intentions that wouldn't become part of a "schedule," but would rather be things I would try to keep in mind all the time.
Essential ingredients for every time-block.
- Serving God in everything
- Showing each other LOVE, INTEREST, & DELIGHT in one another
- Anticipating/resolving conflict by modeling KINDNESS, GENEROSITY, & REASON
- Helping each other work by teaching DILIGENCE
You may have noticed that these don't correspond quite exactly to any of the "essentials" that I identified in my first post. They are distilled from some of those "essentials" in order to get their total number down.
One thing is for certain, we'll never get anything done if we are running in too many directions at once.
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So of those essentials, what remains?
- Connecting with God.
- Showing love to, and taking delight in, each other.
- Connecting with people outside our family.
- Resolving conflict and encouraging generosity, particularly among the children.
- Helping each other work, and learn to work, with diligence.
- Caring for our bodies (and that extension of our bodies, our clothing and appearance).
- Physical activity.
- Order in our environment.
- Creative work.
- Work that serves others.
And can these things that remain -- the things that "there are times for" -- be simplified even further?
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Our days and weeks must have "times" for
- rest and sleep
- meals (planning, shopping, preparing, eating, cleaning up)
- health (physical activity, hygiene, medical care)
- clothing care and dressing ourselves and grooming (purchasing, laundry, haircuts, etc.)
- maintaining an orderly environment
- intellectual development (teaching, school planning, curriculum, chosen hobbies and such)
- connecting with the outside world (volunteer work, seeing friends, paid work)
But that's a lot of different stuff.
Far too overwhelming to make anything even approximating a daily or weekly routine.
And some of the categories are nebulous.
"Physical Activity, Hygiene, Medical Care" only go together in an abstract way as "healthy" things to do. They are not anything like one another in a practical sense. They're not done at the same frequencies or at the same times of day or in the same places. They can't be substituted for one another: one hour in the bathtub, one three-mile walk, and one doctor's appointment don't have the same effect on my overall health.
Better to re-formulate the categories and condense them, without micromanaging the details. Mother Teresa's rule for her sisters famously included time blocks that were simply labeled things like "Work for the poor." It wasn't subdivided into individual tasks. I need the same generality categories, because in this season of life, I need to stay flexible. At a particular time in the afternoon, I may need to spend some time homemaking, but I don't want to say "laundry at this time, bed-making at this other time, return phone calls from then until the next time." I need the flexibility to do whatever household task is most important and then let the rest of the to-do list go when I have to move on to some other activity.
So what I came up with was this list:
Things we make "times" for
- Taking care of body and clothing
- Learning time
Much simpler, isn't it?
I got away with so few categories by making several of them broader. For example, "rest" includes naps, quiet recreation (such as reading for pleasure or surfing the web in bed), and sleep. By thinking about clothing as an extension of the body, I was able to collapse the whole of the processes of getting up in the morning and getting ready for bed, encompassing dressing, bathing, dealing with hair, and even putting clothes away. "Meals" includes the necessary clean-up afterwards.
"Work" encompasses several kinds of work, some enjoyable, some not my favorite. I guess now that I look at it, "work" is anything that I tend to procrastinate. It includes work for the family (a.k.a. homemaking), work for the kids' schooling, creative work (aka hobbies), paid work, and service. This category probably needs to be subdivided some, however, so that none of the kinds of work gets short changed; but maybe on a weekly rotation.
"Learning time" is not called "school" because I need to separate it from the "school work" I have to do every day, week, and year: curriculum purchasing, planning, grading, and record keeping, not to mention maintaining our materials and space. Rather, "learning time" needs its own turn at the top of my priorities. By "learning time" I mean the time that the kids spend directly engaging with their schoolwork and that I spend teaching them or keeping them on task. I am always tempted to wander off and get something else done the instant that everyone appears to be working independently; but what they really need (especially the younger ones) is for me to stay focused and present to them for a good-sized block of time.
"Activities" sounds pretty nebulous, but in our family it is immediately obvious what this word means. It's the stuff we do after dinner and on the weekends. Family gym night; swimming lessons; Wednesday night religious education; going to Mass on Sundays and holy days; Scouts and AHG; shows at the Children's Theatre; the occasional outing for bowling or a movie; potluck and board game night with friends. Nearly all of it optional, and none of it has to be "made up" if it's missed for reason of illness or crisis.
Now I have gone and expanded them, but remember that it all collapses into just six categories.
Rest, meals, learning, work, self-care, activities. To everything there is a time. And each of these to be met, all the time: in a spirit of service, loving one another, peacefully, diligently.
More details in the next resolution.